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Supreme Court grants stay, allows closed immigration proceedings

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         U.S. SUPREME COURT         Secret Courts         Jul 1, 2002    

Supreme Court grants stay, allows closed immigration proceedings

  • The federal government will be able to keep post-September 11 immigration proceedings closed, at least until the Third Circuit has an opportunity to hear arguments in the case.

The federal government will be able to keep post-September 11 immigration proceedings closed until a federal appeals court can rule on the constitutionality of the closure order later this year, after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a trial court’s order on June 28.

The case arose from an internal INS memorandum from Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy. The “Creppy Memo,” issued on Sept. 21, 2001, states that all “special interest” immigration proceedings should be closed to the public. Before the Creppy Memorandum was issued, immigration proceedings were generally open to the public.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the New Jersey Law Journal and the North Jersey Media Group filed a lawsuit in New Jersey challenging the constitutionality of the Creppy Memo. The groups argued that the rule requiring closure violated the presumptive right of access to legal proceedings, as interpreted from the First Amendment.

On May 29, U.S. District Judge John W. Bissell agreed that the First Amendment right of access was infringed by a blanket closure order. He ruled that immigration courts may close hearings on a case-by-case basis, but only after specific evidence had been presented to

demonstrate that closure is necessary.

The government appealed Bissell’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) arguing that closure was necessary to protect national security. The government also asked the Third Circuit to issue a stay to prevent Bissell’s decision from becoming effective until after the appellate court ruled in the case. The Third Circuit declined to issue the stay but planned to hear the case later this year to decide whether the decision was correct.

The Department of Justice then appealed the denial of the stay to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to issue a stay to prevent any immigration courts from opening immigration proceedings until all appeals of the Bissell decision were exhausted. The government argued that if proceedings were opened, “terrorist organizations will have direct access to information about the government’s ongoing investigation.”

The Supreme Court issued the stay without an opinion.

(Ashcroft v. North Jersey Media Group) AG

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